Monday, December 29, 2014

my 2014 Was... list

2014 was a year of intense focus.

On April 14th, I grabbed my journal and wrote...

1)Summarize your overall goal into one or two focus words.

My focus word was 'keep'
Keep writing
Keep submitting
Keep building community
Keep working on my craft

2)Determine what must be done daily to achieve this goal

3)Take action

4)Record your achievements and celebrate your success

This focus resulted in one of my most successful years -- in 2014 I made 67 submissions.

2014 was a year to flex my writing muscles...

I submitted a play to a on-island play contest and won the right to have my play staged. This was an inspiring process for me. I greatly benefited from working on my play with a group of friends (director and cast).



I accepted the challenge to write a "gutsy" story -- and my story was published on the website and included in the anthology. 
Fellow contributor, Shirley Showalter, has written more about this anthology here.
Buy a copy of the book here.

2014 was a year to build community...

I welcomed 45 guest contributors to my blog -- an edition bookbinder, editors, publishers and authors. You can find their guest posts here. (Scroll down to 2014) Before writing this article I re-read these posts and found quotes. Quotes, quotes, an endless amount of interesting, informative and empowering quotes. I thought I would share a few with you, but picking just a few was very hard -- like choosing one chocolate from a box full or one freshly baked cookie from a plate full.

'I write to honour the courage of those who have met life challenges and rose to be the best they can be. They have sparked the belief in me that when we all rise to be the best we can be humanity will rise to be the best it can be.' - Janet Love Morrison

'Most of [the reasons your book was rejected] have nothing to do with the quality of your writing... Don't let it get you down. Just keep submitting your book until someone reads it who can actually buy it.' - Phyllis Humphrey

'[J]ust because you write a book does not mean you're ready to have that book sell and be published.'
-Mary Buckham

'A person can write beautifully, but if you have no story, it's pointless.' -Java Davis

'I decided then and there that I wanted to be a novelist. What a great life! Write a bestseller, sell the movie rights and sit around a pool in Taos living off the royalties.' -Michael W. Sherer

'[W]aitressing is a perfect job for a writer:  it's never the same, and you get to meet different people every day, observe human behavior, eavesdrop on conversations and hear many stories.' -Ayelet Tsabari

'I love story-telling and it's the lure of a good story that gets me every time.' -Sharon Rowse

'I ... entered a lot of writing contests because it taught me to follow guidelines that publishers demand.' -Leann Sweeney

'I knew I wanted to be an author by age 4.' -Heather Shumaker

'I think the nicest words in any language are "Tell me a story." ' -Karen K. Brees

'Writing for children is important to me because I want children to develop the same love of books I had as a child.' -Darlene Foster

'Having come from a place where writing books was not a valued way to spend one's time, I gained strength from being in a place where books held power.' -Sally Cooper

'This is a marvelous time to be a writer.' -Shirley Hershey Showalter

'I write every day ... Mornings are generally best for me, I'm more focused and energetic then.' -Dietrich Kalteis

'An editor is both an unbiased critic and an unwavering fan, helping you see what is succeeding in your work and what may warrant another look.' -Amy Haagsma, writing on behalf of the BC branch of the Editors' Association of Canada

'I love doing interviews because we are an incredible human race made up of so many entertaining and fascinating people who all have stories to tell.' -Judee Fong

'I dreamed someday I'd make time to write as much as I wanted.' -Teresa Karlinski (Tess Kann)

2014 was a year full of good books...

Voices by Arnaldur Indiridason (thriller)
This was the first book I've read by an Icelandic author and I want to read more.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (woman's fiction)
As I'm in the process of building my author career, I was intrigued by Skeeter's struggles to become a journalist.

'I wonder if I'll ever write anything worth anything.' (p. 104)

Annabel by Kathryn Stockett (woman's fiction)
This was my 2014 Canada Reads pick (the book I felt all of Canada should read)
One of the things that stood out to be is what the author had to say about the differing roles assigned to men and women in eastern, rural Canada.

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (classic)
I wrote:  How Green Was My Valley is about a family, a community, a place, a culture, a time. But, even though it is nestled comfortably in history, the author's comment on environmentalism is timeless.

Open Secret by Deryn Collier (mystery)
Though the main plot by this B.C. author was intriguing. My focus was on a sub-plot that involves a secondary character.

Madame Zee by Pearl Luke (historical fiction)
After being enchanted by this book, I was thrilled to discover that the author lives on Salt Spring Island (a big sister island to my own island home). For me, it was like discovering a rock star lived next door.

I read The Orenda by Joseph Boyden (historical fiction) and Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese (fiction) back to back. And I would highly recommend this pairing.

The Delusionist (fiction) is the latest offering by Mayne Island author Grant Buday. Talk about finding a rock star next door. : )

My friend and fellow writer Amber Harvey lent me her copy of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (woman's fiction). And I'm very glad she did.

I love fiction and very rarely read non-fiction, but I made an exception with Shirley Hershey Showalter's memoir Blush

Are you surprised that I two Stephen King books back-to-back -- Bag of Bones (thriller) and Misery (thriller)? Well, you probably shouldn't be. Both books feature an author as the protagonist. And did I tell you that they were written by Stephen King?

My favourite quote from The World According to Garp by John Irving is '[N]early everything seems a letdown after a writer has finished writing something.' (p. 170)

Well, I slowly savour books and my bookshelves are piled high, so I'm all set for 2015.

2014 was a year full of posts

The top three posts that I wrote were...

Visiting B.C. (part 1) -- a short story (at 138 page views)
This is the story about how my boyfriend became my husband.
You may wish to read part 2 and part 3, as well.

Reviewing Voices by Arnaldur Indridason (at 125 page views)
A guy in a Santa suit is found dead in a seedy hotel room in Iceland.
Whodunnit?
  
Peas, Please (at 98 page views)
This is the story of my parents love for each other and for sharing stories.

I hear you. You want to read more short stories and book reviews. And that's exactly what I'm working on for 2015.


I hope looking back on 2014 brings you a bounty of happy memories. I look forward to sharing 2015 with you.

Sharing my author journey...

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Podcast: An Ancient Tune (short story) read by the author

A Christmas selfie

An Ancient Tune 
A young woman travels to a distant land and solves a family mystery.


Please click this  link to hear me read this short story. It will take you to another page. Once on the page, link the icon beside the title of the story -- An Ancient Tune. (Please let me know if you encounter difficulties.)

Total listening time:  under five minutes 


This short story was inspired by Coldplay's song Viva La Vida
The tricky part to writing it was finding a title. I leapt from one idea to another, but none satisfied. I read this story at an open mic night on Mayne Island. I asked for help with the title and instantaneously I was given -- An Ancient Tune 

I hope you enjoy listening.



This year's tree is a collection of branches pruned off the trees that surround my home. The decorations are miniature crafted red cardinals. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yule Reflections

Darkness brings introspection. Each Yule arrives with a message. 2014 I received...



Because you have a creative mind you can conjure such an amazing life for yourself. You write the dialogue, develop the plot, set the scene. It's awe inspiring, fulfilling, and overwhelming. It bewitches you. And so when reality doesn't live up to fantasy it crushes you. You wallow in the muck of your disappointment. It's impossible to see clearly when you're covered by mud. And so you miss things -- the thoughtfulness of friends and family, the irrepressible joy of children, the magic of each new day. Wake up. Don't be dazzled by star dust. Open your eyes to reality. Your life is a blessing cherish it.

"It starts with this:  put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it sin't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around." Stephen King

Sharing my author journey...

Friday, December 19, 2014

My Magic Meadow by Gail Woodward

i envision a meadow where i can find calm and peace
where i can experience inclusion of all 
where forgiveness and understanding prevail
where the earth creates a sanctuary of healing
where i hear  the wisdom of fairies when i listen from my heart

i hear a whisper

Magic is inner power
and as i listen i follow the fairy with delight

she leads me to a labyrinth in the middle of the meadow
where she continues with
Magic comes from the heart
And creates a Lighthearted Life
Be Lighthearted
Live from perfection 
And enjoy your Mistakes!

Photo by Leanne Dyck

as i willingly follow the fairy
 she teaches me to begin walking the labyrinth with a pace of LOVE 
and to become aware that the labyrinth is offering the gift of LIGHT

Photo by Crystal Favel

i hear a whisper

Magic reflects on others
And creates a Responsible Life
Take responsibility
Let your Light shine through your heart 
And feel the glow

 a flow of Light is created 
from the earth
and i somehow become aware that the purpose of walking this labyrinth
is to mend the wounded human through their feet 
as transformation is the magic in each step

i hear a whisper

Magic is in each movement
And creates a Wisdom so simple
Breathe with Spirit
Dance
Hum
Sway 
Sing
and Twirl in Circles!

Photo by Crystal Favel


as we are walking  into the centre of the labyrinth
it feels like i am walking into the magic of self transformation
walking into the centre of interconnection

with self
with each other
with community
with the world
with the universe

i hear a whisper

Magic is present in all
And creates an Interconnection of Awe...
Honour and Nurture Yourself and Others
Smile
Hug
Laugh and Cry
Listen and Connect
Just BE you

Photo by Crystal Favel

i feel the flow of LIGHT that is unseen
with human eyes
seep up through the earth
with each step i am creating LOVE to share as i return to my life
in this moment i realize that each step in life can become our strength
and with each step we can expand this healing LIGHT
walking upon the earth in a New Way

i hear a whisper

Magic flows in the beauty of GAIA
And creates a playground of learning
Share in the beauty of others
SEE the beauty of GAIA
Enjoy your experiences!

now i KNOW that those who walk in these lighted footsteps
 are healed
and forever changed within their very soul
together we expand this healing light by sharing our footsteps with the earth

and thus with others who walk upon our footprints

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book review: The World According to Garp by John Irving


Back of the book blurb:  Journey through four generations, across two continents with the astonishing family of T.S. Garp -- the famous bastard son of a belligerent mother -- who loves, lusts, labors, and triumphs in a world of assassins, wrestlers, rapists, feminist fanatics, transsexual football players, tantalizing teen-age babysitters, adoring children and a wayward wife.

My husband told me,  "Oh, yeah, I read that book in high school."

"Your teacher assigned it?"

"No, I read it by myself."

"What's it about?"

"Read it and find out."

So that's what I did...

John Irving has an educated view of society's treatment of women -- sexism, the feminist movement of the 1960s, men's physical abuse of women.

the blurb John Wolf (Garp's publisher) writers for Garp's book could be used to describe John Irving's The World According to Garp. 

'The women's movement has at last exhibited a significant influence on a significant male writer... the first in-depth study, by a man of the peculiarly male neurotic presence many women are made to suffer.' (p. 476)



Helen (Garp's once girlfriend, then wife) seems to be the driving force behind Garp's desire to be a writer.

Helen:  ' "If I marry anybody. I'll marry a writer."...
It was that afternoon... [that] T.S. Garp decided he was going to be a writer.' (p. 89)

Learning to write for someone else seems to me to be like losing weight for someone -- a recipe for unhappiness. He'll only like me if I'm thin -- he'll only like me if I'm a writer -- he'll only like me if I'm something or someone I'm not. 

Why alter yourself for someone else? What's so wonderful about him that it's worth that major change just to measure up to his desire.

Garp doesn't force Helen to change in any way. She continues to have the upper hand in their relationship -- passing judgement over his talent. 

It wouldn't take me too long to start to feel bitter. 

And it takes so much time, devoted time, to learn how to be a good writer; too much time simply to please someone else.  

'Garp did not write faster than anyone else, or more he simply worked with the idea of completion in mind.' (p. 223)

I can't think of a single person who reads books the way Garp does -- over and over again, twenty or thirty times. 
How boring. 
Maybe. 
But he's not reading to be entertained. He's reading to study the craft.

I wonder if The Life According to Garp is one of the first books that speaks out against the abuse suffered by the GLBTQ community?

In The World According to Garp we meet head-on the "truth" each newly released author must face. Your characters, your plot come through you. They are part of who you are. They are a snapshot of a time in your life. A personal (at times extremely personal) postcard sent by you to the world.

'If the truth suited the story he would reveal it without embarrassment.' (p. 271)

An author doesn't want the world to love their novel because if the world does it's just a yawn fest. Instead, you want controversy -- controversy leads to debate; debate leads to publicity; publicity leads to sales.

The final chapter of The World According to Garp is like a phone call that stretches on too long -- the news has been shared, the bond has been deepened but enough is enough, already. Was the editor on holidays?

'[N]early everything seems a letdown after a writer has finished writing something.' (p. 170)

What others said...

The World According to Garp (1978)

The World According to Garp

Between the Covers book review of The World According to Garp

Robin Williams on playing Garp in the movie.

The Original Theatrical Trailer

Friday's guest:  we will celebrate Winter Solstice with my friend Gail Woodward

Sharing my author journey...


Friday, December 12, 2014

The Territory of Handmade Books by Lisa Van Pelt

In the world of books there are many territories. The biggest and most well-known of these is the marketplace of mass produced books, manufactured on high speed machines, whether delivered via paper or pixel. This process has arguably solved the problem of getting the written word into the hands of modern-day readers.
Less well-known is the territory of hand bound books and letterpress printing. It’s a centuries-old region with rich histories and traditions and it is still very much alive today.



This is the territory where I spend my days. I am an edition bookbinder, hand binding fine press books mostly in the French tradition of the livre d’artist – finely crafted, small editions featuring original art.

Time is slower and longer here. A single book in an edition might take five hours to bind. The cast iron equipment I use was manufactured in the late 1800’s and are still the preferred tools of the trade.

The territory is populated by skilled craftspeople around the globe, often clustered in hotbed areas. I learned my craft in one such place, in a modern day apprenticeship. This was in Western Massachusetts, where an established array of printers, type casters, paper makers, engravers, printmakers, bookbinders, decorative artists and publishers, along with restorationists and conservationists have applied themselves to the art of book making and passing on the craft.


As part of my training I learned the technique of making paste paper, which has been used in books for over 400 years as endsheets and cover material. This technique of painting pigments and starch on paper, then imprinting with designs lends itself to more than just books. All of this handmade effort often leads to books that are not within the reach of the average reader. Indeed most of these books are purchased by specialized collectors and institutions, making them similar to the inaccessible books of 500 years ago. However, these rarified books lie at only one end of the spectrum of modern-day letterpress and hand bound books.

At a more accessible part of that spectrum the techniques are used by individual artists and writers to express ideas and convey information in a fully tactile and sequential way. They immerse the viewer/reader in a total book experience in everything from the feel of a book’s enclosure to the placement of the typography.
Even while reading in the digital age is increasingly becoming distanced from the physical page, this resurgent culture of makers continually renews the long-standing art of handmade books.

The next time you sit down to write consider how some of your finely crafted words might be expressed in a book form of your making. Imagine how a pause in the narrative could be physically represented by an unfolding of a page. How a tone could be reinforced by the texture and variety of materials. Handmade books offer quite a different territory of possibilities. One well worth visiting.






Monday, December 8, 2014

Do you suffer from blogger fatigue? Here's the cure...

Weather report from the wet coast:  all the snow is gone.
I wonder if we'll have a green Christmas?

Teagan Kearney asked, for writers who blog, I'd like to ask do you think blogging is a chore, a challenge, or a pleasure?

In reply, I wrote:  I think, from time to time, all bloggers face the question you're facing, Teagan -- to blog or not to blog, that is the question.

Years ago, I turned to blogging as a way to write regularly and be accountable to others to maintain that commitment. It worked and it continues to work.

I'm a passionate blogger. I love to share my writing with interested readers; I enjoy networking with authors; I reveal in the ability to help promote others in the publishing industry; I like to re-read old posts to see how much I've grown, and... The advantages far out weigh the disadvantages. But there are disadvantages. At times it can feel like eating too much chocolate cake -- one more piece and I'll throw up. I face the cold screen and struggle to find a topic.  Or worse know that what I've written is boring or junk or (supply your favourite adjective). But I keep going and soon my fingers are once again merrily dancing on the keyboard. Remaining a motivated blogger may mean making a change to my blog's format or choosing to blog less or whatever....

Should I continue to blog? I think that's an important question to face. And remind yourself that there is more than one way to promote your writing or to keep writing. You don't have to blog... Blogging is just a tool -- use it if it works for you.

(In the comments, Zee mentioned the ThinkKit prompts. If you'd like to learn more, here's the link.)

The Malahat Review's Long Poem Contest
Deadline:  Feb 1st

Friday, December 12th my guest will be Lisa Van Pelt (edition bookbinder)

Sharing my author journey...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

At The Kitchen Table by David Burrowes

Photo of the author David Burrowes
Photo by Joel Harvey

The two of them, Johnny and Sheldon, bumped together many times in their movements over the next number of months. They would try to upstage each other and get in the last remark before the talking was done. This behavior became the topic of conversation in the community. The ensuing remarks about them only made the situation more difficult.

When they did see each other, they were usually snippy and not too dissimilar to little kids being disagreeable. They seemed to prefer it that way. But maybe it was like a computer program that was faulty and the circuit just kept repeating itself until something or someone could steer it on a course correction.

One day, something different did happen. It was a day when Sheldon and Maxine were going for a walk on a street far away from where they lived. Sheldon had noticed a vaguely familiar vehicle parked in a driveway up ahead. Then, as he approached the driveway, he saw a garbage can sitting there. He lifted the lid and dropped a small bag of poop into it. That changed things.

“Hey! What are you doing there?” a man yelled out.

“Can’t you see? I’m just walking with my dog out here.” Recognizing it was Johnny shouting from the window, Sheldon added, “I…I didn’t know…I didn’t have any idea you lived on this street.” Sheldon was mortified.

“Why don’t you come in and join me for a beverage? It’s OK.” Johnny reassured him. “It’s cold out there. I promise I won’t bite.”

Sheldon was still too shocked to say no. He didn’t know what to do. So he went inside and Maxine followed him in the open doorway.

Johnny placed a mug in Sheldon’s hands and he sat down. In the background, the hockey game was on. Sheldon had one eye on the proceedings. Then a Canuck’s defenseman scored from the point, breaking the tie. The crowd was delirious and Sheldon was instantly involved. Johnny took delight in this, and like a Pavlov trained response, both Johnny and Sheldon high fived the goal.
“You know, you probably were more like me once.” Johnny surmised sitting beside him at the table. Sheldon grimaced and gazed down at his tilted mug and the liquid circulating about the rim. Sheldon was tired of being a tough nut. He looked around Johnny’s home: “I think maybe, I still am like you.” Now, it was time for Johnny to be surprised.

Otherwise that day, they shared a pleasant conversation at the kitchen table near the warm stove. Quite a different path this was becoming as they came to realize their common enjoyment of nature. And they were both friends after that despite their many differences and the fact that Maxine had barked at Johnny’s cat.

This has been a story of what people appear to be and what they actually are; what people try to be and what they actually become and how people everywhere aren’t so different from each other.


BIO
David Burrowes has lived on Mayne Island since 2004 enjoying the single lifestyle and hiding out from those big city ways. Dave was originally brought up on Vancouver’s North Shore. He moved to Victoria, where he ran a rooming house for 15 years taking many people off the street. Previous to that, he had his own small business representing a group of a dozen artists selling various greeting cards and gift enclosure cards around BC. Dave began writing his first novel in 2010, fulfilling a lifelong dream of embarking on a writing career.


Monday, December 1, 2014

What It Takes To Be A Writer

I subscribe to the Writers Unboxed blog. Usually I find an article that challenges, entertains, inspires or informs me. Case-in-point, What It Really Takes by Sarah Callender . In her article, Sarah Callender reflects on an article she read in the Poets and Writers magazine. Sarah writes, 'In this article, Perversity of Spirit, Rufi Thorpe describes a young student and the question he asks her, with palpable desperation, over a cup of coffee:  Do I have what it takes to be a writer?

As I read his earnest question, I recalled the intensity with which I...sought the answer to that same question.'

Callender continues by recounting memories of how she arrived at the answer to his question and she concludes by asking, 'Was there a point you realized you had what it took? What were the hurdles...that tried to thwart you? Whose gifts have encourage you to keep at it?'

My love for story developed at a very early age. Despite my struggles with reading and spelling (I have dyslexia), I was encouraged to write by my family, my teachers and my friends. This encouragement led me to self-publishing.

I recall being stopped in the post office parking lot, by a man I knew--but not very well. 

"I'm not a reader," he told me. "But I read your book--quickly, without stopping."

I was deeply touched by his words and shortly after that made a commitment to continue to submit my writing to publishers until something happened. Well, things have happened I've continued to collect encouragement. And the biggest support -- my husband goes to work every week so I can continue to write.


Our first snowfall of the year.
It arrived early Saturday morning and the light dusting is still here today.


Words fall like snow from my brain onto the page or screen. Sometimes I write blog posts, sometimes stories, but I always write. And I know as long as I keep writing something will happen. I. Know. It. Will. Right now, I live on faith.

Sharing my author journey...